By the Salmon Staff
SAMS students were treated to a unique opportunity when local indigenous leader Mr. Miguel Sagué Jr. presented an historical lesson in the Middle School auditorium.
Mr. Sagué is an artist, storyteller, and spiritual guide who has spent most of his life leading community indigenous groups and teaching about Native American history. He has also worked as a Spanish teacher for Pittsburgh Public Schools and recently recorded a musical album with the help of his son.
The November 4th presentation featured facts and stories about the Seneca Nation, the largest of the six Native American tribes whose government and histories pre-date the United States Constitution. It covered topics such as Native American attire, housing, lifestyles, and legends.
Mr. Sagué explained that American Indians wore headdresses known as “gustoweh,” with the chiefs wearing hats that were decorated with deer antlers. The American Indians respected nature and animals very much and relied on the Earth to fuel their livelihoods, he said.
While men hunted for venison, turkey, and fish, indigenous women planted crops of corn, squash and beans. These crops proved to be necessary because hunting was difficult and inconsistent. The harvests earned women a great deal of respect, and they worked as leaders and politicians when dealing with other tribes and settlers.
The American Indian also relied heavily on the region’s rivers, which served as passageways for trade and travel, and provided water for crops, bathing, and drinking. Mr. Sagué said that Western PA’s “Three Rivers” were originally called the “Forks of the Ohio,” which prompted him to show a slide of Jacoby Brissett (Cleveland Browns QB1) holding a piece of silverware.
Indigenous housing was complex and large. Mr. Sagué explained that women lived in structures with their extended families, and that their husbands would move in once they married. It was not uncommon for one house to have rooms for every generation of an extended family.
Finally, Mr. Sagué touched on some of the Native American legends that have been passed down for generations. These included the story of the “Sky Woman,” an Iroquois mother goddess who fell to earth through a hole in the sky. Her fall led to the creation of “Turtle Island,” which later became North America.
Western PA was discussed throughout his presentation, which included information of the French and Indian War, George Washington, General Braddock and Fort Pitt.
Publisher’s Note: Eighth grader Mitchell Randall contributed to this story.
Photo credit: Brandon Cordon.